I had so many questions about how to grow a pumpkin patch here at our homestead. It can seem daunting, but with a little research I was able to learn a few tips for success. There are many companies that sell pumpkin seeds, I ordered from Baker Creek Seeds so I could get the funky heirloom varieties that are hearty in my gardening zone.
We are in the circle of trust, right? Okay, good. Just checking. I’m going to share with you a secret… this spring I started over a thousand plants from seed IN MY KITCHEN WINDOW. They weren't just pumpkins, don't worry!
My family lives in central Kansas and our growing season is brutal. What I am about to share with you is my plan for growing a successful pumpkin crop this fall. To be fair, I haven’t actually had a successful pumpkin crop yet, so take that into consideration before you consider my well-researched advice. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty confident it is working so far. Later this week I will share some tips on growing medicinal herbs and I can promise those tips will be way more solid!
how I saved money by growing pumpkins
Don’t tell my husband (kidding, he is totally aware), but I spend a lot of money on pumpkins every fall. Carving pumpkins, ornamental pumpkins, funky gourds… I tend to let loose. This year I planned ahead and ordered several varieties of pumpkin seeds from Floret Flower. Can we just take a moment and appreciate how gorgeous Erin’s flowers are? Life goals.
If you are my neighbor out here in central Kansas, the perfect time to start pumpkin seeds is in May. I started mine a little late indoors and then transplanted them outside on a cloudy and cool day. By the way, this is the wrong way to do it. Pumpkins like to be sown directly into the ground, not started in a pot. If you are able, direct sow!
Here is what you need to know to grow your own saving pumpkin patch and save money! First, as I mentioned earlier, try to directly plant the seeds into the ground. Pumpkins can be fussy and don’t appreciate having their delicate roots messed with. Prepare your soil with plenty of compost or plant foods. Pumpkins are hungry plants and will produce big, healthy fruit if they are heartily fed. My favorite compost for pumpkins is really old manure. This year I am using composted llama manure that was recommended by the master gardener class in our area. I’ll keep you posted if it works out!
How to grow a pumpkin patch
- Pumpkins need plenty of space to grow long vines, make sure they have at least eight square feet.
- While pumpkins are fairly tough plants, they are prone to pests like squash bugs and rodents. Spray them with insecticides regularly, or apply Diatomaceous Earth often if you want to be more friendly. When using DE, always avoid the blooms.
- Plant companion plants, such as swiss chard or marigolds to help deter pests.
- Pumpkins are heavy feeders, each plant needs a generous layer of compost during planting and then more throughout the growing season.
- Each vine can grow multiple pumpkins. To grow the biggest and healthiest, remove all but one or two pumpkins from the vine. It may feel harsh to pick an unripe pumpkin, but you will have a better harvest for it.
Pumpkins need plenty of space to sprawl out. Follow the directions on your seed packet, but what I normally do is make a mound of soil and place five seeds spaced a few inches apart on the top of the hill. Each plant will vine in an opposite direction. As the plant grows, I choose one or two healthy pumpkins and pick off the rest. This allows the plant to focus it’s growing energy into those few lucky pumpkins.
Keep an eye out for squash bugs or other pests. I am frequently checking for bugs and sprinkling diatomaceous earth powder on the plants. DE is an organic material made from the ocean floor. I also prevent molds and mildews by watering from a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler. Water on the leaves can cause rot.
Another method I use to control pests is companion planting. My favorite plants to grow along side squash are Swiss chard, sunflowers and marigolds. The chard and sunflowers will attract the bugs, hopefully enticing them to stay away from my actual garden. Planting flowers like marigolds or zinnias next to pumpkins and squash helps to attract the pollinators, like butterflies and honey bees, which promotes a more abundant crop!
The final thing that I do is create a garden plan. It doesn’t matter how much I focus while planting and try to remember what I planted where, I forget. Draw yourself a treasure map! If you would like a template, there are several available online. It is also important to know your growing zone, which can be found by entering your zip code at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
Before I throw away my empty seed packets, or file them in a cool, dry place for next year, I enter them into a spreadsheet on my computer so that I can keep track of what I need to be doing each month. Is it time to start planting indoors? Transplanting out? Direct sowing? When can I expect to harvest? The pumpkin varieties on this grid are from https://shop.floretflowers.com/ and https://www.rareseeds.com/
I hope this inspires you to throw a few pumpkin seeds in the ground as we look towards fall! Gardening can be intimidating, but I have found that just knowing basic hardiness zones and planting dates is usually enough to get you started! If you would like a little inspiration, I am sharing my guide to an ultimate pumpkin patch with plenty of funky variety below. Enjoy!